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Intentionally damaging vaccines would be a felony in Wisconsin under a bill with bipartisan support that the state Assembly is scheduled to approve. The measure up for a vote Thursday comes in response to a pharmacist in a Milwaukee suburb spoiling more than 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021. He pleaded guilty to the federal charges and was sentenced to three years in prison. Bill supporters say state law needs to be clarified because it doesn’t adequately address crimes related to tampering with vaccines and other medical products.  If the Assembly passes the bill, it would then head to Gov. Tony Evers.

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A new report finds that alcohol-related deaths in Wisconsin rose almost 25% in 2020. The nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum released data Thursday that shows 1,077 Wisconsin residents died of alcohol-related causes in 2020, up from 865 in 2019. The data was compiled from U.S. residents' death certificates. The report uses the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's definition of alcohol-related deaths to mean deaths directly attributed to excessive drinking such as alcohol poisoning and liver disease. The definition does not include deaths caused by drunken driving or alcohol-fueled violence. The report speculates that the increase in deaths may be driving by higher rates of binge drinking in Wisconsin and the state's history of high alcohol consumption. 

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The Biden administration is increasing federal support for COVID-19 testing for schools in a bid to keep them open amid the omicron surge. The White House said Wednesday the administration is making a dedicated stream of 5 million rapid tests and 5 million lab-based PCR tests available to schools starting this month. The goal is to ease supply shortages and promote the safe reopening of schools. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tells CBS students need to be in their classrooms and the announcement shows the administration’s commitment to helping schools stay open. The initiative comes after Chicago public schools closed for days amid an impasse between teachers and officials over reopening policies.

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Betty White died from a stroke she had six days before her Dec. 31 death at age 99, according to her death certificate. The Los Angeles County certificate obtained Monday by The Associated Press lists White's cause of death as a cerebrovascular accident, the medical term for a stroke, on Dec. 25. The cause of death was provided by White’s doctor, as is typical in such cases. The certificate says White was cremated. The beloved “Golden Girls” and “Mary Tyler Moore Show” actor died less than three weeks before her 100th birthday. 

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The Legislature's Republican-controlled rules committee has voted to force election officials to publish rules on absentee ballot drop boxes and corrections by early February, a move that will allow the committee to kill the policies. The Wisconsin Election Commission issued guidance as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning in 2020 that allows local clerks to create alternate sites for returning absentee ballots. The commission in 2016 issued guidance saying clerks could correct witness address mistakes on absentee ballot envelopes without contact the witness. Republicans believe both policies are ripe for fraud. The rules committee voted 6-4 Monday to require the commission publish the policies as emergency rules by Feb. 9. Once in rule form the committee can kill both policies.

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Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for those on their plans. The Biden administration announced the change Monday as it looks to lower costs and make testing for the virus more convenient amid rising frustrations. Under the new policy, first detailed to the AP, Americans will be able to either purchase home testing kits for free or submit receipts for the tests for subsequent reimbursement, up to the monthly per-person limit. A family of four, for instance, could be reimbursed for up to 32 tests per month. Only tests purchased on or after Jan. 15 will be required to be reimbursed.